The beginning of 10th grade was beyond exciting. My classes were interesting Biology, French, Geometry and I joined the wrestling team. I did have a glitch when the Geometry teacher said that to take her class, Mrs. Guise, the Algebra teacher had to recommend me, especially since the record showed that I had received a D in Algebra.
I surely knew where Mrs. Guise was and went to her room between classes and said, “Mrs. Crane said that to take Geometry I would have to get a recommendation from you.” She looked at me in her perfectly straight up and down way and read out the judgement, “You missed several exams including the final exam and did not turn in very much homework, and your grade reflects your effort.”
Somehow I appreciated the thought more for the remembering than for truth. I said nothing, a silent supplicant without reply. We had battled it out in Algebra class, me showing off, trying to solve the problems without showing any work and her demanding to see, on the board, every step. The back and forth tit and tat caused the class to laugh which is why I did it and she knew it. Now, no one was laughing.
“I have never recommended anyone for Geometry that did not obtain at least a B in Algebra, Never the less,” she said, “You should take Geometry, I know you can do the work and I will recommend you for Mrs. Crane’s class.” I was shocked inside. Here was my old adversary who I had felt did not like me expressing confidence in Me, my ability. It was confusing, somehow her response was challenging to me. She was so smart and kind I will never forget her but I still do algebraic calculations backwards, in my head, just for fun.
Wrestling was a big sport in Iowa, not as big as football or basketball but more status than track and the wrestling team was a social thing and something to do after school instead of work. It was also the only sport a 95 pound, big eared runt could compete in and win the highly coveted, gold colored WM Letter awarded to first team members with an additional gold wrestling pin all of which was sewed onto my Letterman black jacket. This was one of the most effective ways of attracting female attention or so we thought and proudly wore our badges of achievement at all times.
Wrestling is an individual sport where you are pitted against someone else who weights almost the same as you do, in my case 95 pounds, the smallest weight class. The weight classes went up, then 103, 112, 120, 128 and on up to Heavy Weight, over 200 pounds. The team would go to matches and have matches in the gym with pretty good crowds. The 95 pounders always went first.
It has be said that Wrestling is the most difficult of all sports, the most intensely challenging, man to man, physical contact possible without permanent injury or death. The match is made up of 3, three minute rounds, each contestant is trying as hard as they can to take down, ride, control and ultimate pin their opponent’s shoulders to the mat. There is no rest, time outs or any place to hide, conditioning is paramount.
In football you run a play, huddle then run another play, basketball, no one can touch you, wrestling is hard and your opponent is as strong or almost as strong as you. I had a peculiar advantage, my hands. My hands were big for my size and strong from milking cows by hand for years so my grip was over developed, this came in handy for wrestling.
The first move most wrestlers make is to ‘Tie Up’ which mean to grab each others hands to sort of feel out the other guy. Sometimes guys would want to tie but not for long. My trick was to not let go of their hands, I would squeeze them like that hard milking Guernsey cow and they would get a little flustered, long enough for a double leg take down, 2 points. You could win with a pin or on points, points was most common and much easier anyway I was a take down artist and would sometimes take a guy down for 2 points and let him go, he gets 1 point and I take him down again, 2 points so you win on points but do not have to pin to win. I would score 20 points that way.
Training was very tough. I was strong for my size and use to hard work but the physical conditioning required to wrestle builds real endurance. Endurance wins, every time and endurance comes from practice. Full exertion for one minute is enough to exhaust most people. Your body becomes weak for lack of oxygen and I have seen many a football star running back melt by the 3rd period. Dry mouth sets in the second period as sweat pours out of your body on the outside but your mouth and tongue turn to cotton. The only way to avoid it is to practice and build respiratory strength. Coaches know this and devised training programs that are right out of Sparta.
We would begin with 120 finger tip push ups, then bridges, arching your body on your neck and numerous other tortures. Then practice started, mano a mano for two hours. The coach would always play me against larger wrestlers so the only time I ever wrestled someone really my size was at a Meet. I was undefeated going into the state regional tournament.
I ran into Lloyd at the state regional tournament. I had high hopes of not just winning the tournament but going on to State Finals. I had already wrestled some of the guys and was confident of winning again. Lloyd Eid was my opponent for regional finals.
The thing about Lloyd was he looked like he was 25, full beard and the hairiest kid I ever saw. He was like a younger version of Harold Eibs and the strongest kid I ever wrestled. The ref’s wrestle blows and we move towards each other, slightly crouched over, on the balls of your feet, arms forward and my hands moving, moving with a rhythm.
We tie up and I can feel his power. The push and pull begins to sense each others reaction speed and their beat. Lloyd was shorter than I was but fast. The goal at the beginning of the match is to take down the other guy. My technique was to tie up and to not let the other guy untie. Then I would pull both hands and arms down. This would unbalance my opponent and they would always panic for a moment which I would then exploit by releasing their hands and immediately go in for a double leg drop. I did it and Lloyd did not panic, as soon as I let go Lloyd went in for his own take down. My trick depended on surprise but Lloyd did not care. So now I am down 2 points and I got Lloyd riding me. I try switch after switch. He follows me like a shadow. The period is almost over and I have one last trick to try, the Grande Roll.
The Grande Roll is seldom seen in tournaments because it is considered dangerous, dangerous because if you fail you end up on your back in a very pinnable position and dangerous because the other guy can get hurt if he tries to hang on. The move begins by attempting to stand up. Normally, you try to stand up and pull the other guys arms off enough to get away. With the Grande Roll you stand up as usual but instead of pulling the guys arms you simply bend over and do a summer sault. It is impossible for the other guy to hold you without breaking his own arm. I had never tried this in a tournament but had to score so points.
The whistle blows and I make my move. I fake a switch, start to stand and roll. Lloyd lets go and is momentarily surprised. I had already planned to roll and immediately attack. I did and scored a take down. The score was now 3 to 2 in my favor and the horn blew to end the first period.
The Second period begins with Lloyd in the down position. He is just so strong but I can hold him as he goes through switch after switch. He just keep fighting, the same move, over and over, harder and harder. He was wearing me down and 30 seconds before the end of the period he switched again and I just could not stop him. I was exhausted. My mouth was a dry as a bone. He turned and slide into a double knee drop take down and I could barely fart. The horn sounded and I was pooped.
The Third period began with me in the down position. The score was 3 to 5 in Lloyds favor and my only hope was an escape, 1 point and a take down, 2 points to win. You can only do the Grande Roll once so that was out, Lloyd already knew about it so I was left with just pure effort. The problem was that Lloyd was not just stronger than I was but in amazing condition. I could not get away, in fact Lloyd was trying to pin me for the entire period. That 3 minutes was the hardest physical three minutes of my life so far. It took every ounce of strength and fortitude I had to avoid getting pinned. Lloyd won and I realized a very, very valuable lesson, that speed, strength and knowledge were not the key to winning, they were not enough. The key to winning was endurance and endurance can only come through extreme practice, hard work practice and I owe that revelation to losing. Thanks Lloyd for kicking my ass.